Steve Davies, a 23-year-old designer from Porthcawl, Wales, works on the development of a surfboard made from mycelium —the root-like structures of fungi. This effort takes a stand against the common use of plastic boards that harm the environment.
Davies tells the BBC, “This project is our attempt to steer clear of polystyrene, polyurethane, and resin boards, which stay in landfills for hundreds of years.” The surfboard market, set to reach $3.2 billion by 2027, makes over 400,000 boards each year. Sadly, about 80% of these boards are not sustainable.
Plastic boards require hundreds of years to break down, posing a risk to aquatic ecosystems and potentially entering the human food chain. Davies began his journey in 2020, making his first surfboard and discovering the dangerous chemicals involved. In his final year at Cardiff Metropolitan University, he conducted research on mycelium to make surfing more eco-friendly.
Using his family’s farm, Davies collects materials like horse bedding and straw to grow mycelium. He writes in his project journal, “This led to the idea of growing surfboards on a farm near the beach, using waste from the farm itself, which reduces transportation and carbon emissions.”
The mycelium surfboard has a natural skeleton created in a mold, which is then covered with a waterproof material. Davies experiments with various coatings, including beeswax and linseed oil. To succeed in the market, these mycelium boards need to show they are durable, perform well, and can be produced quickly.